Six years ago, I lived in Poitiers, France for nearly 5 months for a university exchange with the ESCEM Business School. It was my first time visiting Europe since I was 5, and my first time living far away from home.
As part of my visit to France in April and May of this year, I revisited this small city that I once called home.
It seemed surreal to walk on these streets again. So many sights were instantly familiar to me, except the street itself oddly enough. Since I left, the city decided to remove all the pavement and streets within a few blocks of City Hall, and replace them with pedestrian walking stones. The result is an amazing sense of place that breathes new life into the city without harming its old character.
This is where I lived. Each day, I would pass through the wooden door to a courtyard and then to the part of the house where my room was. The bar Le Marigny still seems to be operating, though it was closed when I passed by. Notice that the streets here are still paved, but the sidewalks have been replaced. This must have been a lot of work.
The beautiful Parc de Blossac is just as beautiful as I remember it.
During my one day visit, there was a military reenactment in the City Hall area.
When I was here before, the French department store chain Printemps was still operating. News reports show local shoppers and community leaders crying as the stores gates closed for the last time last January. The still empty building is an unfortunate contrast with the new water fountain where a busy street for cars once was. I noticed that many new smaller clothing store chains have opened in Poitiers recently, so the local economy is not doomed.
This shopping mall is near the school where I went. Monoprix is largely unchanged inside. The escalator still makes a distinctive “bopping” sound that I’ve heard nowhere else.
The Église Notre-Dame la Grande (above) is one of Poitiers only tourist attractions, and rightly so. It is the oldest romanesque architecture church in all of Europe, dating from the 11th century!
The central part of Baptistère Saint-Jean (above) dates from the 3rd century, making it the oldest still existing Christian building in France. Many other visible parts were added and removed since then. It was briefly used as a warehouse in the 1790’s, and saved from demolition in 1834. It is simply incredible to imagine how old this building actually is, and how it’s continued existence is a true legacy to all those who played a role in building or maintaining it over the years.
The Église Saint-Hilaire-le-Grand also dates from the 11th century. Unlike the busy attractions of Paris, Poitiers was pretty much tourist free. It was fairly cold inside this church and the only other people inside seemed to be parishioners preparing for a church event in the evening.
Although a one day visit wasn’t quite the same as living with many friends for 5 months, I was very happy to have visited Poitiers again. It was a nice relaxing break from a busy week in Paris.
I hope you enjoyed my photos. Check back soon for more France posts from Nice and Paris.